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The Golden Legend: Septuagesima

[Note: To make the text as useful as possible to readers, the Golden Legend is available at this site in multiple forms: very large files for each of the volumes, and by chapter.  See the Golden Legend Main Page/Index for other volumes or chapter length files.]

Here beginneth Septuagesima.

At Septuagesima beginneth the time of deviation or going out of the way, of the whole world, which began at Adam and dured unto Moses. And in this time is read the Book of Genesis. The time of Septuagesima representeth the time of deviation, that is of transgression. The Sexagesima signifieth the time of revocation. The Quinquagesima signifieth the time of remission. The Quadragesima signifieth of penance and satisfaction. The Septuagesima beginneth when the Church singeth in the office of the mass: Circumdederunt me, and endureth unto the Saturday after Easter-day. The Septuagesima was instituted for three reasons; like as Master John Beleth putteth in the office of the Church. The first reason was for the redemption. For the holy fathers some time ordained that for the honour of the Ascension of Jesu Christ, in the which our nature ascended into heaven and was above the angels, that this day should be hallowed solemnly, and should be kept from fasting, and at the beginning of the Church also solemnly, as the Sunday. And procession was made in representing the procession of the apostles, which they made on that day, or of the angels that came to meet him and therefore commonly the proverb was that, the Thursday and the Sunday were cousins, for then that one was as solemn as that other. But because that the feasts of saints came, and be multiplied, which were grievous to hallow so many feasts, therefore the feast of the Thursday ceased. And for to recompense that, there is a week of abstinence ordained like to Lent and is called Septuagesima. That other reason is for the signification of the time, for by this time is signified to us the time of deviation, of going out of the way of exile, and of tribulation of the human lineage, from sith Adam unto the end of the world. Which exile is hallowed upon the revolution of seven days and of seven thousand years, understood by seventy days or by seventy hundred years. For from the beginning of the world unto the ascension we account six hundred years, and of the rest, that we reckon it for the seventh thousand, of which God knoweth only the term. Now it is so that Jesu Christ brought us out of this exile in the sixth age, in hope of perpetual life of all them that be revested with the vesture of innocence. By baptism we be regenerate, and when we shall have passed the time of this exile, he shall clothe us of double vesture, that is to wit of body and soul in glory.

And in the time of deviation and of exile we leave the song of gladness, that is alleluia, but the Saturday of Easter we sing one alleluia, in enjoying us and thanking God of the vesture perpetual which by hope we abide for to recover in the sixth age. And in the mass we set a tract, in figuring the labour that yet we ought to do, and in fulfilling the commandments of God. And the double alleluia that we sing after Easter, signifieth the double vesture that we shall have in body and in soul. The third reason is for representation. For the Septuagesima representeth seventy years in which the children of Israel were in Babylon in servitude. And in such manner that they cast away and left their usage of song of gladness, saying: Quomodo cantabimus canticum domini, etc. Thus leave we the song of praising and of gladness. After, licence was given to them to return in the time of Sexagesima, and they began them to joy, and so we do the Saturday of Easter. As in the year of Sexagesima we sing alleluia in representing their joy and gladness, how well in the returning they had pain and sorrow to take their things and bear with them, therefore we sing anon after the tract which followeth the alleluia. And in the Saturday after Easter in which Septuagesima is complete, we sing double alleluia, in figuring the plain gladness that they had when they were returned into their country. And this time thus of the servitude of the children of Israel representeth the time of our pilgrimage of the life of this world. For thus as they were delivered in the sixtieth year, so were we in the sixth age. And as they had pain gathering and assembling their things for to bear with them, so have we in fulfilling the commandments of God. And like as they were in rest when they came into their country, and in gladness and in joy, in like wise we sing double alleluia, that betokeneth double joy that we shall have as well in body as in soul. In this time then of exile of the Church, full of many tribulations, and as thrown out into the deepness of desperation almost and despair, she sigheth for sorrow in saying the office of the mass: Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, etc., and showeth many demonstrations that she suffereth, as well as for the misery that she had deserved by sin, as for the double pain that she is run in, and as for the trespass to her neighbour. But alway, for as much as she fall not in despair, is purposed to her in the Gospel and Epistle three manner of remedies. The first is that if she will issue of these tribulations, that she labour in the vineyard of her soul in cutting and pulling out the vices and the sins, and after in a way of this present life, she seek the works of penance. And after that in doing spiritual battle, she defend her strongly against the temptations of the enemy. And if she do these three things she shall have threefold reward. For in labouring God shall give her the penny, and in well running the prize, and in well fighting the crown. And because that Septuagesima signifieth the time of our captivity, the remedy is proposed to us by which we may be, delivered, in flying the misery by running, by victory in fighting, and by the penny in us ayenbyeng.


The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275.  First Edition Published 1470. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483, Edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900 (Reprinted 1922, 1931.)

This chapter is from: Volume 1: Septuagesima

Scanned by Robert Blackmon. [email protected].

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 2000
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